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LawrenceA

Recently Watched Pre-Codes

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The Song of Songs (1933) - Romantic drama from Paramount Pictures and director Rouben Mamoulian. Marlene Dietrich stars as young German peasant girl Lily. After her father dies, leaving her an orphan, she travels from her old home in the country to the big city of Berlin where she works for her harridan of an aunt (Alison Skipworth). It's not long before she draws the attention of handsome sculptor Richard (Brian Aherne) who convinces her to nude model for him. She also attracts the attention of creepy older Baron von Merxbach (Lionel Atwill) who wants her for his own. Also featuring Hardie Albright, Helen Freeman, and Wilson Benge.

From the "scandalous" nude modeling scenes to the resulting statue, from the seamy dialogue to the ultimate fate of Lily, this classy film features more than its share of pre-code attributes. Director Mamoulian brings his usual attention to set design, lighting and camera placement. Dietrich is very good here, transitioning believably from the naive waif of the film's start to the jaded, world-wise woman of the finale.   (7/10)

Source: TCM.

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State's Attorney (1932) - Legal drama from RKO and director George Archainbaud. John Barrymore stars as high-powered attorney Tom Cardigan. When he grows weary of defending hoods like his chief client Valentine Powers (William "Stage" Boyd), he accepts an offer to become a state prosecutor. Also featuring Helen Twelvetrees, Jill Esmond, Mary Duncan, C. Henry Gordon, Ralph Ince, Oscar Apfel, Paul Hurst, Leon Ames, Blanche Friderici, Barton MacLane, and Nat Pendleton.

Barrymore's drinking problems off-screen seem to be bleeding on-screen, as his character spends at least half the film somewhat soused. He's still very good, though, and very sharp in the climactic courtroom scenes. Esmond, best known today for being Laurence Olivier's first wife, doesn't impress much as a flighty lover. Twelvetrees comes across much better as a former streetwalker getting her life straight thanks to Barrymore. I'm not usually too fond of Boyd, but he's better here, or at least his inherent unlikability comes in handy playing a heel.   (7/10)

Source: TCM.

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I still haven't seen STATE'S ATTORNEY. I'm a Helen Twelvetrees fan. She has the saddest eyes of any actress. She really plumbs the depth of her soul with her performances. 

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2 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I still haven't seen STATE'S ATTORNEY. I'm a Helen Twelvetrees fan. She has the saddest eyes of any actress. She really plumbs the depth of her soul with her performances. 

I've only seen her in a few films, but she really stood out in State's Attorney. She's always been a source of amusement in my family as my long-deceased grandfather used to declare his love for her, and how he would go to see any movie she was in. 

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12 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I've only seen her in a few films, but she really stood out in State's Attorney. She's always been a source of amusement in my family as my long-deceased grandfather used to declare his love for her, and how he would go to see any movie she was in. 

She's very good in MILLIE (1931) an RKO tearjerker. If you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend it. And since MILLIE is in the public domain it's fairly easy to find. Joan Blondell plays a supporting role but it's a Helen Twelvetrees picture and she gets all the big dramatic moments.

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White Woman (1933) - Lurid, sometimes grisly melodrama from Paramount Pictures and director Stuart Walker. Carole Lombard stars as Judith Denning, a nightclub singer with a sordid past stuck in a Third World country where the white governors don't want her around. She reluctantly agrees to marry Horace Prin (Charles Laughton), a rich but repellent owner of a Malaysian rubber plantation. Known as the "King of the River" , Prin runs things with an iron fist and a maniacal twinkle in his eye. It doesn't take long for Judith to regret her decision, what with the horrid weather and seething natives. She's also being chased by a pair of her husband's employees: handsome Army deserter David (Kent Taylor) and swaggering new overseer Ballister (Charles Bickford). Also featuring Percy Kilbride, James Bell, Charles Middleton, Noble Johnson, Claude King, and Marc Lawrence.

This plays like a mash-up of A Lady to Love and Island of Lost Souls. The filmmakers re-used the sets from the latter film, and Laughton gets to ham it up in a delightful way, with an exaggerated accent, peculiar manners, and silly haircut and mustache. Lombard looks terrific, but she doesn't have much to do other than excite the guys in the cast while looking sad. Bickford doesn't show up until later in the movie, but he's worth it with his macho, no BS characterization clashing wonderfully with Laughton's sadistic weirdo. Like most exotic locale movies of the era, this one is more than a little racist, and the bungled depiction of the natives adds to the movie's bizarre "charm".  (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

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Wild Boys of the Road (1933) - Excellent drama about the effects of the Depression on the country's youth, from First National and director William Wellman. Frankie Darro and Edwin Phillips star as Eddie and Tommy, two small town buddies who decide to drop out of high school and hit the road to look for work in bigger towns when the economic downturn of the Great Depression leaves both of their families destitute and unable to support them. While traveling the rails as hobos they meet Sally (Dorothy Coonan), another teen on the road since her family's fortunes have faded. These three stick together through thick and thin, overcoming all manner of hardships and meeting several characters on their way to a hoped-for better future. Also featuring Rochelle Hudson, Sterling Holloway, Robert Barrat, Arthur Hohl, Ann Hovey, Minna Gombell, Grant Mitchell, Charley Grapewin, and Ward Bond.

I was genuinely moved by the character's plight, and the story took a few turns I didn't expect. The emotional moments seem real and not manipulative, and while much of the lingo seems corny now, the sentiment is universal. The performances are good, and I was especially impressed with Coonan, a dancer and chorus girl who married director Wellman (almost 20 years her senior) the following year, a union that lasted the remainder of his life. This was one of the better movies I've watched in a while, and will rank among my top ten of its year. Recommended.  (8/10)

Source: TCM.

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It's interesting you covered WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD. I found a disc of old TCM recordings last night that had this film as well as NO GREATER GLORY (1934), which I believe the channel aired back to back in a tribute to Frankie Darro. NO GREATER GLORY is directed by Frank Borzage and features another group of ragtag kids. I'd suggest you look at that one too, if you haven't already done so. 

Coonan and Wellman had seven children and I was under the impression she only made this one film. But on her wiki page it says she had an uncredited role in THE STORY OF G.I. JOE, which her husband also directed.

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I really like WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD.  Frankie Darro was a great juvenile actor and I've seen him in a number of movies from that era.  There are some really harrowing scenes in the movie, too.  It seems very real that parents in the depths of the depression would have a really tough time taking care of their kids so it's easy to understand the eldest kids heading out on their own.

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